by Audrey Thomasson
LANCASTER—The Lancaster school board chairman on November 18 denied an allegation that the board wants an amendment to the Code of Virginia in order to hire school superintendent Steve Parker’s wife, Dr. Karen Parker, from Northumberland High School where she teaches math.
The charge was made November 14 at a Northumberland school board meeting by District 3 member Gerald Howard.
“It is a baseless and malicious claim,” said Lancaster school board chairman Dr. Robert Westbrook. “I made the request after we were unable to hire a highly qualified science teacher because he was the son-in-law of a board member. It never had anything to do with Karen.
“It is difficult to get good teachers to move to small, rural districts. The resolution seeks an exemption Virginia’s General Assembly has granted to other similarly sized school districts that have the same recruiting issues—lower pay, older community, few young people,” said Westbrook.
Other members of the Northumberland board disagreed with Howard and adopted the resolution, 4-1. Lancaster, Richmond and Westmoreland counties unanimously adopted similar measures.
The resolution seeks to have Del. Margaret Ransone sponsor an amendment to exempt the four school districts in the Northern Neck from a provision of the law that prevents hiring the most qualified candidates to fill professional vacancies if the applicant happens to be related to a board member or superintendent.
“Mr. Howard’s statement has no basis in fact,” said superintendent Parker. “I personally contacted superintendent Dr. (Rebecca) Gates while she still headed up the school district and shared with her the reasoning for our board’s request for exemption. I assured her that I had no intention of employing my wife in Lancaster County schools. Either this was not communicated to the board or Mr. Howard does not believe me. Whichever is true, the statement is not factual and that is very concerning.”
Howard could not be reached for comment.